.../contd. from Home page.
Embodying the art of kingship and realpolitik are two treatises that date from between the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. – The Arthashastra, by Indian Brahman, Kautilya, and The Art of War by Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu. The Arthashastra (“The Science of Material Gain”) advocates no-holds-barred Machiavellian advice on how to maintain a viable state by applying tactics without the hamstring of any moral code, while Sun Tzu’s masterpiece focuses on one key aspect of government, the “how to” of waging and winning wars.
The Sayings of Mencius is a refreshing counterpoint to Kautilya’s and Sun Szu’s notions of government. Born in the 4th century B.C. during the Warring States period, Mencius developed Confucian ideology and spent most of his life journeying from court to court, always seeking a ruler sufficiently principled to apply his teachings. Few were found worthy.
The sage believed in the innate goodness of people but this fundamental Confucian virtue needed the right environment to flourish. The wise ruler who cultivated this natural quality could achieve harmony, both within themselves and in relation to their fellow beings. Societies following this path would be fair, just and free of conflict. In this little book of wisdom, discussions with warlords, disciples, and philosophical adversaries vie with pronouncements on duty, human nature, society and (a recurring theme) the evils of war.
Commensurate with Mencius’ oriental wisdom, western stoic philosophers Seneca and Epictetus (c. 1st and 2nd century A.D.) explain the means to a peaceful and fulfilled life. On a Happy Life and The Enchiridion propose that, rather than seeking transitory "happiness" in things and events, we should aspire to inner contentment and peace of mind via the practice of justice and virtue, so that we may live the kind of life we can look back on and not feel ashamed of. Rooted in ethics, logic and natural laws, these famous stoics emphasise that "No man is free who is not master of himself," a challenge that many latter-day greats like Emperor Marcus Aurelius recognised as a worthy goal.
Different notions of God underpin The Ethics (Benedict de Spinoza) and The History of Magic (Éliphas Lévi). Lévi’s definition of magic is not what we might expect. It is, he says, "the exact and absolute science of Nature and her laws" and these laws, conforming always to an ideal state of equilibrium, are governed by a supreme intelligent principle – God. According to Lévi, this Secret Doctrine (or the Kabalistic Keys) was eventually passed down to the Roman Catholic Church of which he became a faithful member. However, he admits this revered institution had lost the Keys and his life's work was to direct their rediscovery that these powerful tools may be applied to our lives, albeit only within the confines of the hierarchical Church. Spinoza, by contrast, rejects Judaism and Christianity in addressing the nature of God, and concludes that He is intrinsic to the universe rather than outside of it – and is certainly not a personal god in the orthodox sense. The development of these contentious ideas from an early age led to Spinoza’s expulsion from Amsterdam's Jewish community when he was but twenty-three.
The last four titles on Aziloth Books’ list of new releases are a diverse mix, ranging from the serious to the sublime: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Freemasonry – Whence did it arise?, Freedom of the Will, and the delightful Wind in the Willows. See below for details of all of our thirteen new publications.
Below is our full list of new releases, with links to Amazon UK. The titles are also listed on Amazon US and Australia and other online book sellers.
First published in 1754, Jonathan Edwards' rightly famous theological classic considers human Free Will and its many important philosophical implications. Do we indeed possess Free Will? If 'Yes', how then can God have knowledge of future events?; and if the answer be 'No', can humans ever be justly punished for their evil actions which are, by definition, predestined by God's Will? Edwards' penetrating analysis of the topic opens up a whole range of additional, deeply significant concepts and queries: How does God's foreknowledge of all events impact our concepts of morality: what constitutes sin? Does intent alter the value of our acts of vice and virtue? Can the Deity do evil?
Edwards argues that God's foreknowledge demands determinism, and that while the human will cannot therefore be fully autonomous, humans still possess the ability to sin or to refrain from sinning. God seeks the greatest possible good, allowing sin's existence only in order to achieve this laudable end.
Freedom of the Will established Jonathan Edwards as the greatest American philosopher of his time. Still controversial, and hotly debated in the 21st century, this absorbing work continues to stimulate and challenge modern readers.
Among the classical Greco-Roman philosophers none are more influential than the first century Stoic, Epictetus, and the core of his teachings is found in The Enchiridion, or "handbook."
Epictetus was the slave of an officer in Nero's imperial guard. He became schooled in Stoicism and after obtaining his freedom, brought his own insights to bear on the precepts of this life-changing philosophy, lecturing first in Rome and then in Nicopolis where he spent the rest of his life. Like so many early philosophers, he did not put pen to parchment and were it not for one of his students, Arrian, his sage and practical advice on how to live a tranquil life would have been lost to us.
The Enchiridion sets out the principles of stoic moral philosophy as a way of life and the basis of happiness. We should not try to change events that are beyond our control and seek only to control our own thoughts and actions through self-knowledge. Rooted in ethics, logic and natural laws, Epictetus' guidelines emphasise that "No man is free who is not master of himself," a challenge that many latter-day greats like Marcus Aurelius recognised as a worthy goal.
This little book deserves several re-reads to fully appreciate the hard simplicity of Epictetus' wisdom.
As a comprehensive work on magic through the ages, The History of Magic, is hard to beat.
Éliphas Lévi was born in poverty in 1810, the son of a Parisian shoemaker. His early associations with the Christian Catholic Church were ambivalent because of his interest in "the Secret Doctrine" - Magic. His voice as a magus emerged in Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual, published in 1855-56, followed by The History of Magic (1860), where he combines his belief in both magic and religion. Recognised as the occult scientist of the 19th century, Lévi has left a valuable legacy in his writings.
The present work is divided into a septad of books – based on the sacred number, seven – with seven chapters in each. Lévi begins with a clear definition of magic - "the exact and absolute science of Nature and her laws" and these laws, conforming always to an ideal state of equilibrium, are governed by a supreme intelligent principle, God. Throughout the book the author emphasizes the inseparability of science and religion and that magic is part of both, but he is at pains to denigrate Black magic and counterfeit magicians. He charts magic through the ages, from its early origins to the 19th century occult revival, in which he played a major part. We read about Zoroaster, Abraham, the magic of the Magi, Hermetic magic, Kabalism, Gnosticism, Freemasonry - and much else besides. According to Lévi, the Secret Doctrine was eventually passed down to the Roman Catholic Church of which he became a faithful member. However, he admitted this revered institution had lost the Kabalistic Keys and his life's work was to direct their rediscovery that these powerful tools may be applied to our lives, albeit only within the confines of the hierarchical Church.
Occult historian and author in his own right, A. E. Waite provides a valuable adjunct to Levi's book with his preface and detailed notes. The original index has been revised and extended by Aziloth Books.
A literary classic and children's favourite for more than four generations, The Wind in the Willows is both beautifully written and richly inventive. Children of all ages adore the anthropomorphised tales of the leading characters: vainglorious, irresponsible Mr Toad, cautious, self-effacing Mole, grumpy old Badger's periodic need to be on his own and Ratty's joy in simply being alive in this wonderful world - especially when "messing about in boats".
Grahame's wryly humorous text follows the foursome through a series of thrilling, funny and sometimes dangerous situations, from riverside picnics and the mysterious dangers of The Wild Wood through Mr Toad's escape from prison, to the climactic attempt by the four friends to take back Toad Hall from the rascally weasels and stoats. The Wind in the Willows is a magical, unique combination and simply tremendous fun, richly deserving its place in the Guardian's list of the 100 Best Books of All Time.
Enhanced with 16 full-page colour plates by the inimitable Arthur Rackham, this is an absolute joy for both parents and children to treasure.
Animal farm is quite simply a timeless masterpiece. Orwell uses a deceptively modest 'Fairy Tale' - of farm animals rising up against their human masters - and with quiet precision, reveals each step on humanity's all-too-frequent path from popular revolution to despotism.
Written in 1944, Orwell takes as his exemplar the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its aftermath, but "I did mean it to have a wider application ... I meant that that kind of revolution (violent, conspiratorial, led by unconsciously power-hungry people) can only lead to a change of masters. I meant the moral to be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders"
Napoleon the Pig's rise to total power through the slow, gradual degradation of freedom and rights of the general population has much to teach us in today's world. If we hand control of our future to a leader, or cabal of leaders, we should expect the ultimate result to be no better than the denouement of Animal Farm - total control of the many by the few. As Orwell himself said: "What I was trying to say was, 'You can't have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship'"
Written over two millennia ago in China, The Art of War is the first known rational treatise on the planning and conduct of military operations. It's author, Sun Tzu, was a Chinese strategist who lived between 554-496 BC, during the Spring and Autumn Period of the Middle Kingdom's turbulent history.
Dr. Lionel Giles published his classic translation of Art of War in 1910, when he was Keeper of the British Museum's Department of Oriental Manuscripts. Complete with Preface, Introduction and abundant Footnotes, the work has never been bettered, and succeeds brilliantly in placing Sun Tzu's masterpiece in its true historical and cultural context.
Concise and aphoristic in style, The Art of War represents the distilled wisdom of a great commander - limning strategies and ploys that men of later generations, including Mao Tse Tung and Ho Chi Minh, have used with great success.
As a rallying cry for social revolution, Orwell's essay, The Lion and the Unicorn, merits acclaim equal to his later allegorical novels, Animal Farm and 1984, although it never caught the public's imagination in the quite the same way.
Eric Arthur Blair, known by his pen name as George Orwell, was born into a privileged class but developed socialist leanings and a shrewd writing style that spawned an output of essays, newspaper articles, literary criticism and novels.
Writing in the autumn of 1940 London during the early months of the blitz with bombs falling around him, Orwell makes a case for bottom-up social change in Britain, a transfer of power from the decadent ruling class to the working and middle classes. Many of his ideas in the essay - rejection of fascism, capitalism and Soviet-style communism, all of which, in his view, gave too much power to too few - came from his personal involvement in the Spanish Civil War. The British class system, says Orwell, is an anachronism that is hampering the war effort and in order to defeat Nazism there has to be a fundamental transformation towards democratic socialism to motivate the people of Britain to fight. He espouses a new equitable patriotism, founded on British traditional values and customs, a patriotism that would unite the people and release the hold of the ruling class over them, alongside a careful dismantling of the British Empire. While his prediction that revolution in England was a sine qua non for victory, proved wrong, he was exactly right in recognising the working class's expectation of a better deal after the war.
Orwell's vignettes of Englishness are a delight and his list of policies for a socialist democracy worthy of debate.
Uncle Tom's Cabin - the bestselling novel of the 19th century - was instrumental in exposing the brutal reality of African American slavery and played a prominent role in its abolition.
Its author, Harriet Beecher Stowe was a stalwart Christian and committed abolitionist. In violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made it illegal for anyone in the United States to offer aid or assistance to a runaway slave, she and her husband were part of the Underground Railroad which helped escaped slaves flee to the northern Free States.
In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Beecher Stowe argues her anti-slavery position primarily through her characters, from the saintly figures of Tom and Eva to the diabolical Legree, who epitomises the worst of slave owners. But there are passages where the author comes to the fore directly and speaks to her readers with fervour and unassailable logic. Her readership of predominantly Christian Protestants is told slavery is the antithesis of the universal love that Christianity enshrines. Christian enslavers are especially blameworthy and get short shrift from Beecher Stowe as she dismantles their sanctimonious sophistry with scathing dialogue.
In the century following its publication the novel was accused of popularising many black stereotypes, yet few would deny the book's historical and political impact and its potency as a catalyst in the anti-slavery movement.
Written around 400 B.C. by Kautilya, the 'Indian Machiavelli', The Arthashastra was thought lost for more than a thousand years. It was rediscovered in 1905, when scholar Rudrapatnam Shamashastry was asked to catalogue an unpromising pile of palm leaf manuscripts - and suddenly found himself holding a complete copy of the long-lost masterpiece.
Shamashastry published an English translation in 1915 to worldwide acclaim. Until that time, Western orientalists believed that Indian government had copied their structure from the Greeks, following Alexander the Great's incursion into the subcontinent. Now it was plain that the art of government and Kingship was an indigenous achievement, with Greek administrations possibly copying that of India.
This Indian Classic is a unique, comprehensive guide for Kings on the means - foul or fair - of running a viable state. Nothing is omitted, from taxes on prostitutes and care of livestock, through Elephant training, battle tactics and the making of alliances, to the use of deception, threat, and kidnapping to further Royal policy. Also included are magical incantations, and methods of 'neutralising' enemies (as well as 'inconvenient' brothers or sons) by means of ambush, poison, and the use of 'fiery spies'. An eye-opening, amoral discourse on the wiles and stratagems to be mastered by any aspiring conqueror!
Seneca's On a Happy Life - written almost 2000 years ago for his older brother - is an engrossing compendium of timeless Stoic wisdom. The Philosopher's advice covers all aspects of human existence, and includes avoiding intense emotions, desires and fears, and rejecting 'group-think' or mindlessly following social trends. Rather than seeking a transitory "happiness" in things and events, we should aspire to inner contentment and peace of mind via the practice of justice and virtue, so that we may live the kind of life we can look back on and not feel ashamed.
These are values and morals that ring as true today as two millennia ago. They are lessons that will benefit anyone regardless of age, wealth, gender or social position. A fascinating, and very practical, insight into the world-view of history's most famous Stoic.
"The more eagerly a man struggles to reach happiness,
the further he departs along the wrong road; and since
this track leads in the opposite direction, his very swiftness
carries him all the further from his goal."
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Benedictus de Spinoza's ground-breaking philosophy made him a controversial figure of 17th century Rationalism and a major influence in the Enlightenment that followed.
Spinoza developed contentious ideas from an early age, resulting in his expulsion from Amsterdam's Jewish community when he was only twenty-three. Christian orthodoxy likewise repudiated his philosophy and the Catholic Church later issued a ban on all his writings. Undeterred and unrepentant, Spinoza the outcast went on to explore notions of God, man, the universe and reality, an intellectual journey that culminated in his magnum opus, Ethica, which he wrote between 1661 And 1675. This was a metaphysical analysis so radical that he was forced to have it published after his death.
The intention behind the Ethics is to demonstrate that it is possible for man to attain a good life and experience "blessedness" or knowledge of God. Inspired by Cartesian rigour, Spinoza employs Euclid's step-by-step logic to prove his various propositions, signing off each proof with an assured "Q.E.D." flourish. The five-part work addresses the nature of God and concludes that He is intrinsic to the universe rather than outside of it - and is certainly not a personal god in the orthodox sense. The treatise then proceeds to dissect the human mind and to explore the notion of free will and of good and evil. This is followed by a detailed analysis of the origin and strength of various emotions and the way in which they enslave man. In the final part he reveals how we can free ourselves of these emotional manacles by fully understanding how they work and by distinguishing between those that are harmful and those that are useful. For Spinoza, reason is the sole means to this end. It is no easy task, he warns, and few will succeed - "But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare."
Masonry is the most widely spread Fraternity in the world today, yet its origins remain shrouded in myth and conjecture. In his latest book, writer and researcher Ray Hudson delves deeply into the true genesis of the Craft. Using information gleaned from more than 35 years as an active mason (holding senior positions in all the mainstream Masonic Orders, plus many other specialist groups) he rejects the most widely held view - that the system emanated from Medieval builders or the Guilds of working men. Citing numerous references and examples, Hudson shows how the basic tenets of Freemasonry were brought from the East to the West through the auspices of the Knights Templar, and how the suppression of the Order in 1307 led to the birth of Freemasonry as we know it today. His thesis is vastly strengthened by the inclusion of a previously unpublished paper on the little-known Order of St. Sophia, & its connection to both the Cistercian Order & Knights Templar, and written by John, Baron von Hoff, a former Master of this most recondite order, whose family have held positions of honour therein since at least 1500 AD.
The Sayings of Mencius has been revered for well over 2,000 years, and is arguably the most influential of the Si Shu (Four Books) which form the foundation of traditional Chinese education,
'Master Meng' was born during the turbulent Warring States period, and was a tireless advocate of Confucian thought, defending and expanding its tenets as a means of achieving peaceful relations between individuals and competing kingdoms. The sage spent most of his life journeying from court to court, always seeking a Ruler sufficiently principled to apply his teachings. Few were found worthy.
According to his philosophy, each of the fundamental Confucian virtues already exist within us as "sprouts" (especially jen (acting compassionately) and yi (doing what is morally correct). The Wise who cultivate these young shoots can achieve harmony, both within themselves, and in relation to their fellow beings. Human societies which follow this path will be fair, just and free of conflict.
The Mencius is filled with a stunning variety of philosophical and political subjects. Discussions with warlords, disciples, and philosophical adversaries vie with pronouncements on duty, human nature, society and (a recurring theme) the evils of war. A book to return to again and again.
This Aziloth edition is a translation by the renowned Sinologist James Legge.